Inheritance and Trustee Attorneys

Fiduciary/Inheritance/Trustee/Probate Lawyers

Our lawyers represent clients in probate, inheritance, and fiduciary litigation in Illinois. Examples of cases our Naperville law firm has litigated include:

  • Representing siblings in disputes over inheritances
  • Helping to recover millions of dollars for investors whose fiduciaries negligently mismanaged/handled their investment assets.
  • Defending and suing officers, shareholders, and directors of companies accused of misconduct and breaching fiduciary duties.
  • Representing minority shareholders who are being treated unfairly in a company or being forced out of a company.
  • Suing and defending partners who accuse each other of misconduct.

news_pic01Mr. Fish helped recover millions of dollars for approximately 2,000 investors who had invested in a limited partnership commodities fund. The fiduciaries responsible for the limited partnership entrusted the investors’ money to a company who ended up filing for bankruptcy after its officers had allegedly misappropriated assets. As a result of the bankruptcy filing, Mr. Fish’s clients were unable to access their money. After approximately one year of Federal court litigation in Illinois, an outstanding settlement was reached. In March 2007, Judge Wayne Anderson (Federal Court, Chicago) entered final approval of the settlement. (Franzen vs. IDS Managed Futures)

Breach of Fiduciary Duty and Minority Shareholder Litigation

In 2007, Mr. Fish helped obtain a $1.3 million settlement on behalf of a group of minority shareholders of a community bank in Illinois. The lawsuit alleged that certain directors of the bank had breached their fiduciary duties to a class of shareholders when the bank converted from being a subchapter C to a subchapter S corporation. The case was filed in the Northern District of Illinois and the Honorable Judge Joan F. Lefkow appointed David Fish to serve as co Class Counsel for the minority shareholders who were forced to sell their stock.

The Fish Law Firm defended an Illinois corporation after one of its former officers (who owned 49% of its stock) sued for breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, violations of ERISA, seeking the payment of dividends, and requesting dissolution. The lawsuit settled on very favorable terms shortly after we filed a counterclaim alleging that the 49% owner had breached his fiduciary duties by: paying himself when he did not show up to work, used company assets for personal expenses, stole company equipment, and committed negligence by neglecting his duties when he was employed. (August 2008, Judge Popejoy, DuPage County, Illinois)

We recently represented a professional (who was a minority shareholder of large DuPage County professional firm) in a dispute against his long-time business partners. The lawsuit alleged that the corporation’s other shareholders had unlawfully forced our client out of the architectural firm, unlawfully reduced our client’s compensation by approximately 90%, and were otherwise oppressing him in his ability to perform his job. After approximately one year of litigation, the case settled. (DuPage County, Illinois, Judge Popejoy, 2009)

Inheritance Disputes

cases_pic1After our client’s brother refused to carry out their mother’s express intent in her Will and trust to have her children split property equally, we were retained. For years, our client’s brother had unilaterally used and benefited from valuable real estate and refused to distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to our client. We filed suit in the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois to enforce the mother’s wishes and filed an emergency motion to have our client’s brother removed as the trustee of the estate. Shortly thereafter, a favorable resolution was reached. (Judge Wheaton, DuPage County, Illinois)

Click here for our July 2008 Newsletter about minority shareholder rights

The following summarizes some of the basic rules with regard to executors and trustees–and when these rules are not followed, there are often inheritance disputes

Probate courts in Illinois regularly deal with disputes over inheritances. These disputes often involve family members (or others) fighting over a will, an estate, a trust, or assets. There is legislation that protects the interests of the beneficiaries. The following are just a few: A trustee is only allowed to charge reasonable fees for his services. Also, any expenses made in administration of the trust must be proper.

Typically, a trustee must give the beneficiaries an account of the income and disbursements of the trust at least once a year (or more regularly if the trust provides). Also, once the trust terminates, the trustee typically should give beneficiaries a final account of the income, disbursements and inventory. A trustee has to invest prudently.

The following are some examples where one may allege that a trustee does not act prudently:

1. Fails to diversify the investments of the trust.

2. Fails to review trust assets within a reasonable time of accepting the trusteeship. Review of trust assets may include determining whether to retain or dispose of the original investments.

3. Does not consider the interests of all the beneficiaries. This may include situations where the trustee fails to consider future interests.

A trustee has to act solely for the interest of the beneficiary. This means that the trustee not only has to refrain from self-dealing but also cannot act in the interest certain third parties. The following are some acts of which the trustee may be prohibited from carrying out :

1. Use of trust property or funds (whether it be for his own benefit or for the interest of a third party). For example, a trustee may be unable to use trust money in his or her business or lend trust money to him or herself. A trustee may be liable if he or she commingles funds.

2. Obtains a benefit out of the administration of the trust (except for reasonable compensation for services). For example, a trustee may not be able to accept any gift, bonus or commission for an act if it was related to his administration of the trust.

3. Purchases trust property when he is the seller. If may also be problematic if the trustee sell the trust property to a third person just so he could then subsequently buy the property from that third person.

Even if the trust document allows for some of the general prohibitions, a trustee can still be liable if he acts dishonestly, in bad faith or fails to fully disclose all the facts to the beneficiary. Our Naperville, Illinois law firm represents clients throughout Illinois, including DuPage County, Cook County, Kane County, Will County, Aurora, Oak Brook, Naperville, Joliet, Plainfield, Wheaton, Downers Grove, Chicago, Elgin, and others.